I Love You, Daddy is a natural next step for Louis C.K., a button pusher who for the past five years has been dogged by rumors of sexual misconduct with female comedians. With a deliberately provocative plot and the undeniable homage it pays to Woody Allen's Manhattan, I Love You, Daddy has C.K. steering into the skid.
Shot on 35 mm in luscious black and white, the film has a classic Hollywood texture and a classic Hollywood conceit: a brilliant old man paired with a beautiful young ingenue. C.K. plays Glen Topher, a TV writer with a 17-year-old daughter, China (Chloe Grace Moretz), to whom he can't say no. Glen is gobsmacked when his hero, a legendary 68-year-old director named Leslie Goodwin (John Malkovich), who has been trailed for years by rumors that he "fucked a kid," invites China to accompany him and a group of bohemian artist types to Paris.
I Love You, Daddy comes off as both sly acknowledgment of the rumors about C.K. and a vexing evasion. He has cast himself in the role of concerned father, not predatory creep; as on Louie, C.K. surrounds himself with brash women who cajole him to be a better father, better husband. But all the rah-rah feminist empowerment talk in the world won't drown out the way C.K. presents Moretz, who first appears in a bikini -- like a creamy confection, an ice cream cone waiting to be licked. "I just look at women," C.K. marveled in his 2013 standup special, Oh My God. "Like they're, you know, cakes in windows." Ultimately, the movie goes limp, and Leslie fades out of view, a cloudy figure who never really has to answer to anyone.